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  • Eric Moyer

Do-it-Yourself EVs Are Going Mainstream

You've heard it all before: electric vehicles are boring, small, slow and expensive. Tesla has worked hard to change these perceptions while the 'Big 3' domestic manufacturers have been content to sit back and let Elon Musk have all the fun. That's all about to change and there's no better indication than the eCOPO Camero that just took SEMA by storm.

On the surface, eCOPO Camero is just another one-off, radical concept car to blow minds and get automotive writers in a tizzy. Dig a little deeper and you're quickly confronted by the very salient reality of hot roaders leading the way to an electrified future. Like street racers in the 50's and 60's who turned deuce coupes into white-knuckle, drag cars, backyard mechanics are redefining what EV's can be. In the case of the eCOPO Camero, a high school shop teacher named Patrick McCue did the bulk of the research developing electric dragsters with his students.

To understand why this car is such a big deal, you must first know the history of the COPO cars from Chevrolet. The COPO nameplate is a nod to the Central Office Production Order system, which cunning Chevrolet dealers used to build one-of-a-kind high-performance models. In 1969 the first purpose-built Camaro drag-racing specialty car was designed to compete in the NHRA Stock Eliminator class; fifty-years later the nameplate was resurrected to commemorate the anniversary. The 50th anniversary, COPO Cameros that have resulted are purpose built for competition, just like the originals. Only 69 cars were to be produced but apparently a 70th car got the COPO treatment.

The eCOPO Camero that has resulted from the marriage of hardcore competition modification to a production car and an electric drive system is nothing short of game changing. Let's review:

Is it slow? It has over 700 hp and it should run nine-second quater-miles.

Is it boring? It has over 700 hp and it should run nine-second quarter-miles.

Is it practical? Its based on a production vehicle that lots of folks drive everyday.

Is it affordable? Definitely not but it could be if you built it yourself...more on that later.

The devil here is in the details or more specifically, an off-handed remark from Russ O'Blenes, head of performance parts at GM. "The possibilities are intriguing and suggest a whole new world for racers. The eCOPO project points to a future that could include electric crate motors for racing, or even your street rod. We’re not there yet, but it’s something we’re exploring."

Wait, what!?! Did the head of the performance parts division at General Motors just say they are hoping to offer EV drivetrains to enthusiasts? -- He sure did and the repercussions are enormous because once enthusiasts get their hands on pre-engineered drivetrain packages that can be easily mated to existing platforms, conversions could become commonplace putting EV's within reach of more consumers as well as breathing new life into old rides. According to Chevrolet, the motor in the eCOPO uses the same bell housing bolt-pattern and crankshaft flange as an LS V8, which means it can be paired with any transmission Chevrolet Performance offers. Driving the electric motor is an 800-volt battery system, which consists of four 200-volt packs weighing 175 lbs each. Two are mounted where the rear seats in a standard Camaro would be, while one sits right over the rear axle, and one is in the spare tire compartment. Chevy says these battery packs give the eCOPO a 56-percent rear weight bias, which helps with off-the-line traction.

Let's get real here. Not everyone is going to want to build a battery-electric race car out of a Camero. What if you have a slightly more practical vehicle in mind for just such a driveline. I for one have always been a Ford guy, swapping this drivetrain package into my pickup should wake it up a bit. The possibilities are endless with a large enough vehicle and enough battery capacity to cover the distances seen in an average commute. Sign me up!


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